Blinken says US investing in Africa without unsustainable debt


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (centre) watches as Jeff Price, Cubic Transportation Systems Vice President and General Manager (left) and CETUD Director General Thierno Birahim signing an agreement during a commercial diplomatic event with US companies and the government of Senegal at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Dakar

DAKAR— US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country was investing in Africa without imposing unsustainable levels of debt, as he witnessed the signing of contracts worth more than US$1 billion in Senegal’s capital Dakar.

The deals between four US companies and Senegal are being billed as part of his country’s pitch to help Africa build infrastructure with transparent and sustainable deals.

Careful not to directly criticise Chinese infrastructure projects, which have proliferated across the continent in the past decade, Blinken said during a visit to Nigeria on Friday that international deals were too often opaque and coercive.

The US is investing “without saddling the country with a debt that it cannot handle,” he said during the signing ceremony with Senegal’s Economy Minister Amadou Hott.

He said he had a deep concern for the stability of neighbouring Mali, which has experienced two coups in the last 18 months, and that the upcoming election there must follow a timetable drawn up by the regional bloc ECOWAS.

Earlier this month ECOWAS, West Africa’s main political and economic bloc, imposed sanctions on Mali’s transitional leaders, after they informed the organisation they would not be able to hold presidential and legislative elections in February.

“We look forward to resuming the full array of assistance as soon as this democratically elected government takes office,” Blinken told reporters.

It was reported that Mali’s military junta was in discussions about deploying a Russian military contractor, Wagner Group, in Mali to help fight a growing Islamist insurgency.

“It would be especially unfortunate if outside actors engaged in making things even more difficult and more complicated and I’m thinking particularly of groups like the Wagner Group,” Blinken said.

Blinken said the US has real concerns, widely shared with partners in Europe, over Russia’s “unusual activity” at the Ukrainian border, after Ukraine said it feared Russia might be preparing an attack.

“We do know the playbook of trying to cite some illusory provocation from Ukraine or any other country and using that as an excuse to do what Russia was planning to do all along,” Blinken said.

During a visit to Dakar’s Institute Pasteur bio-medical research center, Blinken said the United States was working with partners to generate more financing for vaccine manufacturing in Senegal.

In October BioNTech signed an agreement with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar and the Rwandan government to construct the first mRNA vaccine facilities in Africa, starting in mid-2022.


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